King's P.R.I.D.E. warns about gay robberies

Gay-straight alliance group to discuss safety issues when meeting people they've met online

Two gay males were robbed this month by someone they met on this dating site. (Photo: Lauren Naish)

King's P.R.I.D.E. is putting out the word to university students about the recent robberies affecting gay males who use PlentyofFish.com, a popular online dating site.

Police reached out to LGBTQ groups in the Halifax Regional Municipality after the two robberies earlier this month.

But J.D. Hutton, co-president of King's P.R.I.D.E, wants to ensure students know about the incidents.

"I thought it was quite terrifying because I know there are a lot of people on PlentyofFish, mostly in the gay community," said Hutton.

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J.D. Hutton, co-president of King's P.R.I.D.E. says his group is always there for students. (Photo: Lauren Naish)


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This is a map of the two robberies that occured at the beginning of January.

 

 

"It's just a really sick way of robbing people and not getting much."

The robberies will be on the agenda at the King's P.R.I.D.E. meeting this Thursday, so its members can further spread the message to be safe when taking part in online dating.

Both victims met up with the thief after talking to him online.

Though the robberies happened in different places, the police believe they're linked.

In both cases, the suspects took the men's wallets. The victims weren't injured in the process.

Hutton wonders if these attacks have more to do with hate than profit.

"Could it be a hate crime? Is it an issue about gay people, or is it really about getting a wallet?"

Halifax Regional Police Const. Brian Palmeter said these two crimes show the danger in meeting people who you've only spoken to online.

"We have had other issues with people who make arrangement on an online classified site to buy or sell an item and they end up being robbed in those processes," said Palmeter.

Although police in Halifax don't see cases like that often, Palmeter says it's part of a bigger issue. He said people should be using safe methods when meeting up with strangers.

He said students are more likely to use online information sites to shop or meet new people.

"We want to get the message out not only to someone who might be using an online dating site, but to anybody who is using the internet to meet somebody," said Palmeter.

Hutton said there is a large local presence on the popular dating site PlentyofFish. He isn't aware of any friends who have been robbed by people they met on the site.

"Online dating is something that almost everyone does so we need to be conscious of safety issues when searching for a partner online," he said. "You don't know who you are talking to inside that computer screen. It could be anybody."

Hutton said having safety rules to go by on these sites are something its users should talk about.

Palmeter suggests picking a well-lit and well populated area, and always telling someone where you are going, who you are meeting and when you'll be back.

Hutton agrees with this advice.

"I like cafés because you can quickly get out."

However, he understands why they may not choose to meet so publicly.

"Amongst the gay community there are a lot of people who aren't out yet, or choose to be discreet so I can understand why you wouldn't want to meet in a public space," said Hutton. "But you have to balance that with safety."

Although there haven't been any new victims coming forward since the release, Palmeter said an officer familiar with the LGTBQ community is working with the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project. NSRAP is a non-profit political and community action group that works with the LGBTQ community in Halifax.

Kevin Kindred, a representative from NSRAP, said he heard about the robberies when police came to the organization before the stories were released.

"I was, unfortunately, not terribly surprised," said Kindred.

He said they have heard about incidents like this before in other communities, but this is the first time in Halifax.

Victims are encouraged to contact police. If they aren't comfortable coming directly to the police they can contact the Rainbow Action Project.

"Going to a police officer is a very intimidating experience," said Hutton. "Talking to someone you know, in a safe place, is usually the best way of reporting things."

Hutton said he and the executive members of King's P.R.I.D.E. are accessible to students who need someone to talk to.

"Crimes against gay people should be reported. That's the way to fight homophobia," said Hutton.

He said police did the right thing by alerting the gay community about the recent crimes, but he believes PlentyofFish should also let it's members know that people are abusing the site.

"They have the ability to mass message the members so they should send a message themselves saying there have been targeted attacks."

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